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Forty years, on Massimo Vignelli's innovative subway map still pisses off New Yorkers; designer Max Roberts gives it a reboot by bending it into shape

Written by
Howard Halle

Back in the 1970s, designer Massimo Vignelli introduced his now iconic map of the New York City subway. Inspired by the diagram found in the London Underground, Vignelli used clean color-coded lines to depict subway routes—a move that was hailed at the time for its innovative, graphic brilliance, while also being condemned for not correctly showing where the subway went, according to the city map. Why New Yorkers were such sticklers for geographic accuracy as opposed to riders of the Tube, or for that matter, Washington D.C.'s Metro, is a mystery that's never been explained. But in any case, Vignelli's map was abandoned. Fast forward to 2014 and another designer, Max Roberts, has decided to take a shot at straightening out the flaws of Vignelli's schematic, basically by bending it into shape. One again straight color-coded lines are used, but this time, angled slightly to more accurately represent the true direction of the trains. But again, critics carp that Roberts's map hasn't gone far enough to address the problem with the original. Well, this is New York, after all, and there's just no pleasing some people. But it does raise the question once more: If you're traveling underground in the dark, what difference does geography make?

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